No Fear

Forty years ago Mr. Herbert invited me to Arrakis and I learned from the people there:

“You shall not fear.

Fear is the mind killer.

Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration

Face your fear and, without clinging, allow it to pass through you.

And when fear has gone you will see that it was nothing and only you remain.”

A few years later Mr. Lucas invited me to Dagobah where I was taught that focus determines life’s outcome and that, although there is suffering in the universe, there is a clear sequence of events that lead to suffering and that avoiding that sequence can change life’s outcome. We know that fear, especially fear of the future, leads to frustration and anger, anger in turn leads to hate, and hate leads us to the dark side of ourselves.

Worry, anxiety, fear, fright and terror are all parts of a continuum and their differences are in degree and duration

Worry is the apprehensive expectation of things not in evidence leading to fear, which is a sense of imminent danger in the absence of a real or threatened cause.

The prolonged experience of living a fearful life leads to dysfunction, weakness, and premature death. The Ling shu scroll from the Han Dynasty (202 BCE – 220 CE) advises:

Fear and worry without relief result in injury to the foundational essence [jing]. The injured core essence can cause the bones to be diseased and deficient. At the time of reproduction, the core essence will not descend [referring to the interchange between essential fluids in the brain and in the kidney as described in the ancient literature]. Thus, the five organs, which control and store the core essence, should not be harmed by excesses of the emotions. If they are injured it will result in loss of protection, and the yin [the substance of the body] will become ‘hollow’. The yin being hollow will result in lack of Qi [which replenishes the jing]. A lack of Qi will cause death.

Psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI) is a relatively new field of study that looks at the interactions between the central nervous system (CNS) and immune system. Researchers know that our CNS and immune system can communicate with each other, but they only recently started to understand how they do it and what that means for our health.

The understanding that biological effects of social and mental factors constitute a fundamental revision of the biomedical paradigm, as seen in fields such as psycho-neuro-immunology, which re-conceptualizes healing as the causal effects of adaptive processes on physiological responses.

The nerves in your brain and spinal cord make up your CNS, while your immune system is made up of organs, tissues and cells that defend your body against infection. Both systems produce hormones, enzymes and proteins that can act as messengers between the two systems. In your CNS, these messengers include hormones and neurotransmitters. Your immune system, on the other hand, uses enzymes and proteins called cytokines to communicate with your CNS.

A cytokine is a small protein that’s released by cells, especially those in your immune system. There are many types of cytokines, but the ones that are generally stimulated by stress are called ‘pro-inflammatory cytokines’.

Under normal circumstances, your body releases pro-inflammatory cytokines in response to an infection, injury or other inflammatory process to help destroy germs and repair tissue. When you’re physically or emotionally stressed, your body also releases certain hormones, including epinephrine (adrenaline). These hormones can bind to specific receptors that signal for the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

From various research sources the following information has come to light:

  • Bereavement: stories of recently bereaved individuals dying soon after their partner are common. These tales are not just apocryphal. A study that followed 95,647 recently widowed individuals found that during the first week after bereavement, mortality was twice the expected rate. There is more to this than a metaphorical “broken heart”
  • The gut: it is now fairly well established that there is a strong association between sustained stressful life events and the onset of symptoms in functional gastrointestinal disorders, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Cancer: health professionals working with cancer patients know only too well that a patient’s outlook perspective and their quantity and quality of psychological support can hugely impact the outcome of their disease
  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus): studies have found significant evidence that elevated levels of stress and diminished social support accelerates the progression of HIV infection
  • Skin complaints: psoriasis, eczema and asthma are all known to have psychological aspects to them. A stressful day at the office can have you scratching as you reach for the asthma inhaler
  • Wound healing: the speed at which a surgical patient heals has been linked to psychological factors. For instance, increased levels of fear or distress before surgery have been associated with worse outcomes, including longer hospital stays, more postoperative complications and higher rates of re-hospitalization. In one study on patients with chronic lower leg wounds, those who reported the highest levels of depression and anxiety showed significantly delayed healing.

Brief stressors including fear and fright; tend to suppress cellular immunity that deals with cellular invaders, like viruses while humoral immunity normally deals with pathogens outside of cells, such as parasites and bacteria.

Chronic stressors that include worry and fear, tend to suppress both types of immunity.

Stress has a measurable effect on the strength of the immune system and therefore its ability to protect us. In a very real way, managing levels of stressors like worry and fear can help maximize the vitality of your immune system.

According to the DMS-4, the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association a Panic Attack is the sudden onset of a discrete period building to a peak with a sense of imminent danger in the absence of real or threatened danger. The signs and symptoms of this condition include apprehension, fear, terror, a sense of impending doom. Shortness of breath palpitations, sweating, trembling, shaking, chills hot flushes, nausea, and abdominal discomfort. Additionally one may be dizzy, lightheaded, experience chest pain or discomfort, choking or smothering sensation and the fear of loss of control.

According to traditional Chinese medicine the above are the signs and symptoms of chronic Qi deficiency and Heart blood vacuity.

From our line of herbal medicines, Earth Wind Botanicals, we recommend the formula Calm Shen which is specifically compounded for Heart Qi and blood deficiency leading to panic attacks.

Also according to the DSM-4 General Anxiety Disorder is six months or more of persistent and excessive anxiety and difficult to control worry (apprehensive expectation), with; restlessness, fatigue, poor concentration, irritability, muscle tension and disturbed sleep.

According to traditional Chinese medicine these are the signs and symptoms of chronic Qi vacuity and Liver blood insufficiency. Also from Earth Wind Botanicals, we recommend the formulas Peace and Sleep or Brain Food which are specifically compounded for chronic Qi vacuity and Liver blood insufficiency.

Of course I would be remiss if I did not also extol the virtues of daily prayer, meditation and gentle movement to calm the mind, heart and spirit.

Yours in good health,

Robert Kienitz, DTCM